Zozibini Tunzi reflects on her historic journey after becoming Miss Universe

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Zozibini Tunzi made history in December 2019 after she became the first black woman from South Africa to be crowned Miss Universe. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Reuters
Zozibini Tunzi made history in December 2019 after she became the first black woman from South Africa to be crowned Miss Universe. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Reuters


Today marks three years since South Africa and the world watched pageant queen Zozibini Tunzi being crowned Miss Universe, a day she says changed her life forever. She made history in December 2019 after she became the first black woman from South Africa to be take home the title and, as fate would have it, she is also the only Miss Universe who has had such a long reign.

Zozi Tunzi
Tunzi during the swimwear portion of the Miss Universe pageant at Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta in the US on December 8 2019. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Reuters

Reflecting on her historic journey, Tunzi told City Press: "I feel so proud because when you do Miss SA and Miss Universe and you win, the intention of it all is to have a lot more other women come after you."

She added: 

It has been a beautiful journey of ups and downs. A lot of great things have happened and in all of those, it was just a beautiful moment of a beautiful life and learning moments.

The beauty queen from Tsolo in the Eastern Cape is the third woman from South Africa to win the title. Margaret Gardiner was the first in 1978 and Demi-Leigh Tebow brought the crown home in 2017.

READ: An incredible homecoming for Miss Universe Zozi Tunzi

After living in New York City for more than a year during her reign, Tunzi came back to the country to focus on her foundation, the Zozibini Tunzi Foundation, which focuses on mental health.

"The Miss Universe journey has been incredible and to come home and engage with people and to have them say all those things that they have been wanting to say in person ... To feel seen and in that moment, I just realise that that crown was not just a moment for myself but for all of us."

Tunzi added that she would always wear the Miss Universe crown with pride: "I have always felt like I am just me. I have always felt like Zozi before and after Miss Universe, nothing makes me feel different on the inside, but I do feel like I will always feel like a Miss Universe because that is what we always say —  that every Miss Universe is a forever Miss Universe, and I will always feel like that because of how precious people are being about that title and how they have embraced it as their own and how they will always see me as a Miss Universe," she said.

READ: She looks like a goddess - Miss SA's father marvels over her costume ahead of Miss Universe

The man who is being credited for a job well done is Werner Wessels, who is the creative director of the Miss SA pageant and who has coached Miss SA beauty queens ahead of their global competition.

Wessels has coached Miss SA winners for 10 years and has had a direct hand in producing a Miss World, two Miss Universes, a  Miss Universe runner-up and the world's reigning Miss Supranational, Lalela Mswane. 

Wessels said: 

It takes a lot of passion, a lot of dedication and a lot of commitment. I see my role as being the support that she (Miss SA) needs to just be her own authentic self. Luckily, in the last 10 years that I have been in this career, I have learnt a lot.

He added: "Other than that, it is just my job to support her in all ways possible so that she does not feel like she is by herself and that she feels like there is someone there to help and be her safety net. That is what the Miss SA brand offers the girls. We are their safety net so that they can fly as high as they can and know that if they fall, we can catch them."

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